Thursday, 30 October 2014

By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes...

Our Special Collections Librarian, Sarah Griffin, introduces you to some of the witches who fly through our collections.

The Wonder book of Fairy Tales by A J Johnson 1903
At Halloween, witches sail on their broomsticks across the night sky and the veil between our world and the underworld becomes thin. Dressing up as a scary witch is the favourite costume choice on 31 October and as we all like to be a bit scared we thought we would uncover some creepy witches lurking in the Special Collections to get us all in the Halloween mood.

World turned upside down 
c 1800 - click on image to enlarge
Saducismus triumphatus, or a full and 
plain evidence concerning witches and apparations
Note: this is a crop from the larger title page - click on image to enlarge
Witches were believed to consort with the devil and they were often attended by their ‘familiar spirits’ who helped them do their magic. Familiars were often cats or toads.

A discourse on witchcraft. As it was acted in the family
of Mr Edward Fairfax of Fuystone
in the County of Yorke in the year 1621

Three very well-known witches can be found in Shakespeare’s play Macbeth. At the time that this performance was first shown people firmly believed in witches, so to start the play showing their demoniacal plotting would have been a real curtain raiser.

The plays of William Shakespeare embellished with plates

In all these pictures the witches are old and ugly; a fairly typical depiction. Witches are ugly because it makes them easier to hate and be scared of, although it was also believed that witches had the ability to appear beautiful in order to ensnare the unwary.

Of course not all witches are scary, here’s the fairy godmother from Cinderella, a witch who does good, a white witch. She does look quite typically witchy though with her tall hat, cloak and long nose.

The Wonder book of Fairy Tales by A J Johnson 1903

Have a happy and safe Halloween and keep an eye on the sky for those broomsticks!

All these books and much much more can be found in the Special Collections and are all available for study. Please contact Sarah Griffin for more information.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Go beyond your Resource Lists with Oxford Bibliographies Online!

David Brown, one of our team of Academic Liaison Librarians, introduces you to one of the many e-resources that we provide to support your work.

Your Resource Lists are a great starting point when you're looking for materials for assignments, but if you really want to impress your tutors you'll need to find lots of other sources too. Oxford Bibliographies Online (OBO) is just one of the Library's online resources which can help you to expand your search and go beyond your Resource List.

What is OBO?

OBO provides research guides, written by experts in the subject. Each guide breaks down the topic into key headings, which include suggested reading and links to more material. Think of each guide on OBO as a subject-specific Resource List, giving you an idea about the key books, journal articles and other resources for that topic.

At York, we have access to five different sections on OBO:

How can I find material on OBO?

Each subject area on OBO is broken down into research guides, covering the main topics for that subject. You can browse each subject by using the links at the top of the screen, or search for topics of interest by using the search box at the top-right. The Advanced Search gives you more options - for example, you can choose which subject areas to include in your search.

You will also find OBO's research guides listed on YorSearch, our Library catalogue. YorSearch will give you a direct link to each entry on OBO, making it easy to find the research guide you're looking for.

How do I use OBO's research guides?

The research guides usually start with an introduction, giving you a broad overview of the subject, followed by more specific areas of interest. Each section of the guide includes suggested readings, with notes under each reference to explain why that source might be useful.

To find out whether a resource is available from the Library, click on Find this resource under each reference. The Find it @ York button will automatically check YorSearch to see whether that book or journal article is available. YorSearch will tell you whether the item is available electronically (and give you a link) or in print.

Remember that we won't necessarily have access to everything listed on OBO, as it might not have been chosen specifically by our academics. If you think we should have access to an item you'd like to use, why not suggest it to the Academic Liaison Librarian for your department? You can find his or her contact details on your department's Subject Guide.

How can I get more help?

For help using OBO, you could either explore the database's Help pages, or contact your Liaison Librarian for more advice.

Your department's Subject Guide will include links to lots of other useful resources for your subject, and will provide general advice on Library resources for your department.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Fun with Google Apps scripts. (Yes, you read that right)

One of our non-technical staff drank the Google Apps Kool-Aid. In this blog post, Tom Grady shares what he learned when he decided to get automated.

I have come to the conclusion that I must be fundamentally lazy. Why?

Because I recently learned about Google Apps Scripts and have become a little bit obsessed with using them to automate everything in my life. Without openly admitting it to myself or my boss, I think I'm aiming to get to a point where I come to work, set all my scripts going and then wander off to drink cups of tea.

Ground Control to Major Tom by Chris DeversReproduced under a Creative Commons licence

So what exactly have I done? Well, we're hardly talking SkyNet taking over just yet, but I have managed to write some scripts that do the following:
  • Collect the most recent stats for my team from several Google Spreadsheets, showing how hard we've worked and what's on the horizon for this week
  • Put those figures into a pretty table so you can compare last week with this week at a glance
  • Automatically email my boss with them every Monday morning at 10am*
*(I suspect she has an inbox rule that sends them straight to Deleted Items, thereby neatly closing a circular loop of automation, but anyway...)

I thought I'd share with you how I did it, in case anyone else out there is as lazy as me.

First of all, let me be clear: as an English Lit graduate I knew I wasn't going to be able to merrily start writing code from scratch. So I did what everyone does: I went to see The Oracles. They're not on a distant mountain top, they're in the Teaching and Learning team in IT Services in the Fairhurst Building. After an hour's overview with Mike Dunn and Tom 'Major Tom' Smith they let me loose, and over the course of a week I managed to cobble together a script that I thought might do the job.

It didn't work.

And then I learned the most important lesson of all: if you don't know what to do, ask StackOverflow and a kind soul somewhere in the world will help. If you follow their no-nonsense rules for asking questions ("This site is all about getting answers. It's not a discussion forum. There's no chit-chat.") you actually get some great ideas and, if you're lucky, they'll even throw you some code to take away. For free. And they don't even like it when you say thanks.

My code was copying stats from the spreadsheets OK but it wasn't copying the most recent cells; I could only get it to find fixed rows and columns and this is no good if you update your stats every day. Here's a snippet of what someone suggested.

if (origin.getName() == "Sheet1") {
    var r = origin.getActiveCell();
    var row = r.getRow();
    var numberOfCol = 3;
    if( row > 1) {
      var numberOfRows = row >= 7 ? 6 : row - 1;
      var startRow = row >= 7 ? row - numberOfRows + 1 : 2;
      range = origin.getRange(startRow, 3, numberOfRows, numberOfCol);
      range.copyValuesToRange(destination, 1, numberOfCol, 1, numberOfRows);

On every edit event in Sheet1 this copies the bottom six cells from Sheet1 to Sheet2. I jiggled this into my script and hey presto! It worked. The final piece of the puzzle was to have an old-fashioned formula in another Google Sheet grab the stats from Sheet2 and format them nicely. Then I wrote another script that is triggered at 10am every Monday morning and uses the MailApp.sendEmail function to send the stats.

Apart from being absurdly and unreasonably proud of learning this from scratch, I think this is worth sharing because it's a good example of something that not long ago would have required input from a real developer. I would have had to persuade someone important that it was worth spending time and money on doing, and I'd have have failed because it really wasn't a pressing problem that needed solving. Fiddling with Google Apps scripting liberated me from so much red tape and allowed me to just go off and do it, without much fuss and without much training.

Next I'm working on a script that will churn out blog posts ...

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Google Apps at York

Mike Dunn, from our Teaching and Learning Team, puts your working life in order with the help of Google Apps.

Time for a rant. I get really irritated when my email inbox is filled up with stuff that doesn't belong there. It would seem that some people haven’t yet figured there are other ways to communicate or convey important information. And I don’t just mean Facebook and Twitter:
“When are you free to discuss…?” – please look in my Google calendar and invite me.
“I’ve attached this document…” – couldn’t you just share it with me? Where am I supposed to put it? How many copies do you want hanging around? 
“I’ve shared this Google document with you, and in it you’ll see…” – I’m going to read it, so you don’t need to tell me what’s in it, do you? If you want to comment, add comments to it! 
“Attached is a form [Word document]. Please fill it in and return it” – I can’t fill it in, you’ve designed it for printing and it doesn’t work on screen.
So how can we connect with each other when we need to manage working and collaborating? Here are some Google thoughts.

Meet me under the clock…

Make sure you share your Calendar with anyone you need to make arrangements with, and that they likewise share with you. If you assign ‘See all event details’ or ‘See only free/busy’ permissions they can see when you’re free but won’t be able to vandalise your events.

When you need to get together with several others, add them to the invite list for the event, but then choose Find a time. This will show you everyone’s calendars together so you can check the time is OK for everybody.

If you’d rather suggest several different times and pick the most popular, you can use an application called Doodle. It’s not part of Google, but you can link the two so all the possible times show up in your calendar as ‘tentative’, and when the final slot is confirmed only the ‘definite’ remains – all automatic.

Can you take a look at this and suggest some changes?

Conventional Word documents are not really designed for collaborative work, but documents on Google Drive are. Suppose you’re working on a group project. One of you makes a Google Drive folder and shares it with everyone else (with Edit permissions). Now every Google document created or moved inside the folder can be viewed and edited by the whole group – even at the same time, and you don’t have to be together (so it’s fine if you’ve gone home for the weekend). No need to start emailing documents about.

If you’re not all working at the same time, that’s fine – you can suggest changes or add comments, and sort it out later. If you’re not all in the same place, you could use a Google Hangout to take a look together. Hangouts let you do video-conferencing without needing any special equipment – just a laptop with a web cam and microphone. You can invite several people, share and capture screens and even add silly hats and facial hair (not normally available on video-conferencing applications).

Back in Calendar, if you want to make sure everyone can find the document(s) they need to look at, you can use the Add attachment option in an event to include a link to the Google document(s).

When you’ve finished changing the content, if you need features that are only available in Word, just download the Google document and convert it for final editing.

Can you fill me in…?

Collecting any sort of information or data from several people can be a chore. Do you email the request? Do you send a document with questions? How will you get it ready for any processing? Google Forms are brilliant for collecting information. You design the form (adding text boxes, drop-down lists, option buttons etc) and send the link to the people you want data from. They fill in the form on screen and the responses are collected in a Google Spreadsheet, ready for you to process.
If you make the form in a shared folder on Drive, all your collaborators will be able to work on it, leave comments, generate charts and so on. And Google Spreadsheets have almost all the same functionality as Excel, plus a few extras to make collaboration easier.

This won’t fit through the letterbox

Google Drive has tons of space, and you can upload photos, PDF documents – anything you want to be able to access easily online – with the knowledge you can control exactly who has access. It’s far more secure than using USB pen drives, and gives you the flexibility to work wherever you are, even when you’re doing some collaborative group work.

Now where did I put that floppy disc? I need to back-up the Internet . . .

Friday, 17 October 2014

What do you really think about IT?

Following on from Jackie Knowles’ post on the Customer Service Excellence (CSE) award last week, Sarah Peace reflects on what CSE has meant in practice for Information.

One of the things we've put into practice and value greatly since starting the process of achieving CSE is our customer feedback.

I've been in charge of the IT Support Office for five years and although we've always had ways our customers could provide feedback, including comment cards and the IT Survey, this is an area we've really enhanced upon. 

In March this year, we introduced a satisfaction sampling method from our enquiry handling system. This sends a satisfaction survey email to one in ten closed enquiries that we have dealt with. The survey asks two questions: Were you happy with how we handled your query? and How useful was the response you received? Users can choose to respond anonymously or leave the specific enquiry number.

We had been worried that surveying our customers like this might case survey fatigue, but a month after switching it on we wondered why hadn't done it years ago! Since March we've received over 300 replies, with 93% of respondents saying Yes, they were happy with how we handled the query, and 87% rating us four or five out of five on how useful the response was.

These results are fantastic and we’re currently beating our target of 90% which is in our Service Standards (I think we’ll need to increase this target soon!).

Here's some of the feedback we received:

“It was extremely complicated and other depts were passing me from pillar to post but you got it sorted out”
“It was handled quickly and efficiently and gave me all the options so I could choose which was the best way forward”
“Efficient and very helpful. Not a complicated process at all”
“Support team gave a fast and friendly series of responses and resolved the issue”

What do we do with this feedback? Any feedback which mentions a particular service is passed on to the service owner within the department. Any staff feedback is passed directly to the individual. One team has joked that they get so much positive feedback they may need to start a gold star chart in the office.

The difference between this feedback mechanism and others is that it’s about a specific issue and we can get back to the user on an individual basis. It also helps us to gain a greater understanding of what our customers expect.

This week we’re also running a “penny for your thoughts” campaign to sample the satisfaction level for our in person queries. Every walk-in customer is given a penny and asked to choose whether they are happy or not with the service they have received. This is a very quick and cheap way to sample satisfaction levels. This is what the box looked like on day two:

At the end of this month, we will also be running the IT Survey again for all staff and students. I would encourage you all to complete this, as we really do value your feedback and this helps to shape what IT Services will look like in the future. Please take time to look at what we’re doing with the results of the last survey we ran here.

And if you have any thoughts on how we gather feedback, we’d love to hear them.

Sarah Peace

Thursday, 9 October 2014

Did you know it's National Customer Service Week?

The Information Directorate are providers of award winning customer service. This week, as Jackie Knowles reports, we used the occasion of National Customer Service Week to promote and share our story with a showcase event.

In March 2014 the Information Directorate were awarded the Customer Service Excellence (CSE) accreditation. CSE offers organisations an external, and independent, accreditation which looks in detail at those areas that matter to customers when it comes to services - aspects such as delivery, timeliness, information, professionalism and staff attitude.

Our showcase invited staff from across the University to come along to find out more about what we do across Library, IT and Archives and what makes us tick when it comes to providing our award winning customer service. It was also an opportunity for leaders and managers from other departments in York to find out more about the CSE framework -  both the work involved in preparing for assessment and the ongoing commitment that is required. Holding CSE within Information helps us promote the University as a whole and a selection of other HE organisations have begun to gain CSE accreditation across the whole of their institutions, with many others waiting in the wings and considering following suit.

The afternoon was an informal drop-in based around having conversations with people and it was a great opportunity for us to chat to colleagues about our approach and our services. The CSE standard places an emphasis on developing customer insight and understanding the user experience - and for us, talking to people underpins this understanding. Providing cake along the way helps too!

Customer Service Excellence is a significant undertaking, especially for a department of our size, and although there was a lot of hard work involved in preparing for our initial assessment we have seen a range of benefits come out of the process. Our staff culture has changed and we now are certain that we put the customer right at the heart of everything we do. Our staff have been challenged via working on CSE to become more self reflective and always look to make continual improvements to the services we provide. But perhaps one of the biggest success stories coming out of CSE is how we've come together as a big team to make it all work. For a department made up of three distinct areas this was a particular challenge and CSE has given us a common language and framework to drive forward our work. This was evidenced throughout our work on CSE from senior level managers working together to put robust service standards in place, to a range of practical measures on the ground around sharing of good practice.

The achievement of the standard gives us formal recognition and a badge of quality - but the badge is simply the icing on the cake.

To find out more about our CSE accreditation please visit our Customer Service Excellence webpage or contact Jackie Knowles, Head of Customer Services for further information.

Monday, 6 October 2014

The perils of automatic captioning

Aimee Phillips finds the comedy moments in YouTube's automatic captioning (and then removes them).

I've been reviewing and adding captions to the videos on our YouTube channel, thanks to a gentle prod from our friends over in the University's Digital Marketing and Communications Team at one of their show and tell sessions.

We'd already added captions to our older videos, but the newer ones were still waiting to be done. In the interim, we'd been relying on the automatic captions, but these can be far from ideal. For example...

Video with the caption "as well but you're eating less what often include Jan articles if the

Which was actually: " well, but your reading list will often include journal articles"


Video with caption "each of whom offer the channel you need check the dates of the fight to provide

Which should read: "...each of whom offer the journal you need. Check the dates offered by each provider"

It's important to get this right, and not just so we don't look like we've lost the plot...

As Dan Wiggle pointed out in his presentation, captions are useful for a number of reasons, including:
  • they help our users with hearing impairments
  • they're useful for overseas students who may struggle with regional accents
  • people don't always want to have the sound turned up in open plan offices (or of course the Library)
  • in general they can be handy for anyone who might have missed a word or two

So how do you add captions?

It's pretty straightforward. YouTube have provided a step by step guide for adding captions to their videos.

They do a pretty good job of automatically matching up the timings, but if it's a bit out of sync, you can easily drag the text to the right place in the video:

My life was made easier by the fact that for most of the videos, we'd got a copy of the transcript saved, so I could just copy and paste it in.

For the ones where we didn't, it was relatively quick and easy to use the "Transcribe and set timings" option to type the captions myself. There's a tick box to choose to pause the video as you type, which I found very useful as my typing skills are distinctly average. Again, it automatically syncs the timings for you.

However, if you've got a lot of videos to transcribe, another helpful tip from Dan was to pay someone else to do it (he recommended CaptionsForYouTube). When you factor in what you've paid to have the videos made, it's actually a relatively low cost to outsource this work. Definitely worth thinking about.

If you haven't seen our YouTube channel yet, take a look:
We've got short how-to guides, a Library tour, and my personal favourite, a look into the world of the IT Support Office.